What Exactly Is May Day?

The 1st of May is May Day. There are many traditional May Day celebrations around the world.   The first day of May is observed in Canada, United States and in some parts of Western Europe as a celebration of the coming of spring.  In the UK, May Day is observed on the first Monday of May (also known as Bank Holiday Monday).

Bank Holiday Monday is a public holiday in the UK which celebrates the coming of Spring hopefully in the sunshine (or just to do nothing!) as this is also when people are off work and off school.  We’re sure you’re wondering why Bank Holiday Monday is called ‘Bank Holiday’?  It’s because it is the day on which banks are obliged to close by law.  More traditionally, English folklore celebrations take place which include morris dancing (English folk dancing to music with bells on their arms and legs) and a maypole, around which traditional dancers or children circle with ribbons.

France follows a more romantic view of May 1st.  At the beginning of the 20th century it became custom to give a lily of the valley flower as a symbol of springtime. Nowadays, people tend to give a bunch of lilies of the valley to loved ones.

There is a more serious side to May Day, too.  The first day of May is also known as Labour Day or International Worker’s Day. This day commemorates the fight for an 8-hour day and to honour workers and their institutions. This idea for a ‘worker’s holiday’ began in Australia in 1856 and quickly spread around the world. Not all countries observe this day in May though. In the USA, for instance, Labor Day is on the first Monday in September.

How do you celebrate May Day in your country? Tell us by writing a comment below!